Saturday, November 21, 2020

Pittsburgh newspaper clippings from 147 years ago

 A three-legged cat, an "ancient-looking" revolver and more.

Here are some clippings from the August 4, 1873, edition of the The Pittsburgh Daily Commercial that you might find intriguing on this Saturday night.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Friday's mostly mystery photo

This is Ray.

That's all we know beyond what we can see here. His name is written on the front and back of the 3½-inch-wide photograph. The snapshot was once pasted into a photo album, the kind with the black-paper pages. (It's kind of odd, and certainly I've been guilty of this at times, to think about all the modern folks who has meticulously removed pasted photographs, one by one, from old albums and scrapbooks. Sometime it's to preserve them in better or easier ways. Sometimes it's to save just a few pieces of ephemera from an otherwise mundane repository of memories. Sometimes it's so that those snapshots can be sold individually in flea markets and antique stores.)

Ray is certainly cleaned up real well for this photograph. Shirt, jacket, pants and a nice belt. Face scrubbed and hair combed. Would he rather be wearing jeans and a T-shirt and climbing that tree behind him?

If we had to guess a time period based on his clothes, this might be a little bit after World War II, right? 

Is Ray still around? How about those houses and that tree? What were his family's plans on this day? What were the other photos once surrounding this on the page of the photo album? Siblings? Pets? Birthdays? Vacations? 

And who ultimately removed it from the photo album? A family member? A stranger? 


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Thursday's mystery photo

Today's snapshot is 2⅝ inches wide, was once pasted into a scrapbook/photo album, and is slightly out of focus. A young woman with short hair and a necklace looks into the distance — not at the photographer — as she casts a shadow onto what appears to be a well-constructed barn complex. That's it. That's all we know. Was another photographer taking a straight-on shot of her at the time, and this photographer decided to document it from the side? Or was "moody" the intent of the photo? Am I wrong to say that her shoes do not seem to be proper footwear for someone who might spend time around this barn? Is that a ring on her finger? 

Mystery photos contain so many mysteries!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Wednesday's semi-mystery photo

For today's camping photo, which is 3½ inches wide, we do have some caption information on the back. It states:
NO 47
OUR CAMP AT DORST CAMP, SEQUOIA, AFTER RETURNING FROM HIKE TO LITTLE BALDY SEQUOIA
This would be the Dorst Creek Campground at Sequoia National Park in central California. Their hike was the Little Baldy Trail (or Little Baldy Dome Trail). The peak of that trail is said to provide an amazing view, if there's good weather. The National Park Service website states:
"The Little Baldy Trail climbs along switchbacks to the top of a granite dome, passing an incredible variety of wildlfowers along the way. The trail starts from the highest point on the Generals Highway, winding 1.7 miles (2.7 km) and gaining 790 feet (241 m) in elevation. At the top, enjoy views of the Great Western Divide and beyond. You might rest and have a picnic while enjoying this 360-degree view. When you're done, return the way you came for a total of 3.4-mile (5.5-km) round-trip hike."  
The California Through My Lens blog has some nice photos of the hike.

I don't know anything else about this photo. Who these campers were, or even when they were camping. The car that's pictured might give us some hints as to the era, though.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Tuesday's mystery photo

Today's mystery photo features a dapper-looking young person standing on some very nice brick steps. Clearly, this family was not struggling financially.

The snapshot, which is 2¾ inches wide, was once pasted in a scrapbook and there is no identifying information that I can discern, although I can see small portions of the stamp from the business that processed the photo long ago.

I'm no expert on clothing, but this is certainly an interesting outfit, with the wide-collar shirt, double-breasted overcoat, cuffed pants and dress shoes. Spinning a (silly) modern context onto a vintage photo, I might say this kid is cosplaying as either Draco Malfoy or Tilda Swinton. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Monday's mystery photo

Let's have some mystery snapshots as part of the mix this week. (Heck, I have enough to get through that I could probably post one per weekday through the end of the year.) 

This photo of a young girl measures 2⅝ inches by 4⅜ inches. It was important enough that it was once, long ago, pasted in someone's scrapbook. But it has been removed and there is no identifying information on the back. 

What can we know about this? We can only guess, as always. The girl's shoes and the quality of the small portion of the house we can see behind her would seemingly indicate the household was not poor.

Beyond that, it's all guesswork. When was this? Where was this? What kind of life did she have? I reckon it's possible that she's still alive, sitting somewhere with all her lifelong wisdsom and wondering what the hell has gone so wrong with the world in 2020.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Update on my dream house

In previous years, I have described elements of my dream house, which will require some magical realism, as it will be somewhat larger on the inside than the outside. The exterior will be modest and bucolic. There will be a goat on the roof. And plenty of other yard animals around. I plan to spend a lot of time in the yard.

But I will need somewhere to sleep. Enter the bedroom inn that Hutter retired to in 1922's Nosferatu. Cozy and perfect. (I'll have to add a ramp to allow cats access to the raised bed, though.)

The next most important thing is books. I have many. In my dream house, I will have multitudes. They need the perfect home. Ashar and I watched 1965's The Skull last night, and the study/library where Peter Cushing's character spent most of his time is perfect. Huge, but not overwhelming. Lined with bookshelves everywhere you turn. There are no great images showing the true extent of the room online; I included the best ones I could find in this post. But they don't really do it justice. So you'll just have to watch the movie, which is very good and which has plenty of tracking and lingering shots that luxuriate in the design of Cushing's study. I can only image how much fun it was for the set designer to put it together. 

I'd keep Cushing's desk, I think, but add a second one somewhere in the room, because I'm already committed to Chauncey Depew's desk being a part of my dream house. A room this impressive can certainly have two desks. 

I should probably start thinking about the kitchen soon, if this dream house is going to be viable. I'm thinking I might mix things up with some mid-century modern aesthetics...

Monday, November 9, 2020

School lesson for the kitties

This Victorian trade card features some tortoiseshell kittens attempting to learn geography from an adult black cat, while two other kittens wait their turn. It's an interesting map. It almost looks like it has a south-up orientation, but I'm clearly reading too much into it; it's obviously just some colored blotches in the vague resemblance of a map. Also, an illustration of cats looking at a map is hardly the place to comment on cultural and socioeconomic bias as normalized through geography.

As you can see, no publisher is listed on the front of the 4⅜-inch-wide card, and the reverse side is blank. But based on some other evidence I found online, it's likely this is from a series that was issued in the 1880s or 1890s by Dieter's Crown Baking Powder. According to the below 1980 advertisement from the  Xenia (Ohio) Daily Gazette, Dieter's Crown Baking Powder was "recommended by the highest medical and chemical authorities, who testify to its absolutely purity, wholesomeness and wonderful strength."